May the Fourth…

…be with us all.

Last night I foolishly allowed the boys to sleep in my bed. Jeff is away for work all week, so I had the space – or so I  thought. Let me just say: Arthur snores like an old man and moves around like a monkey on steroids. Suffice to say, it was a restless night (for me).

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At 6am Julian woke up and said, “I’m 6!”

And so he is. There was no time to waste; he had to open presents immediately.

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Also, pancakes.

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Arthur screamed intermittently from 6am to 9am (when I left him at his school) because it was not his birthday. Damn you nature (i.e. planned c-section) for making his birthday be three whole days later. Being the younger brother is hard sometimes (all the time?).

Anyway. Julian brought a cake to school.

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He said his classmates sang to him four times (apparently that’s a huge deal). He was beaming when I picked him up from school. Him, and 8 of his closest friends. Because who doesn’t like to be in charge of a bunch of sugar-hungry 5-6 year olds?

Also, I was that person with a bunch of balloons on the subway. No one even looked at me twice. I love New York.

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Traveling in style, me and my trusty grocery cart.

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(I’d dropped off the piñata and 40 juice boxes in our giant beach bag at school the previous day. But the boxed wine needed to be chilled, because priorities. So that’s why I needed the cart.)

Once some other brave moms and I made all these children safely cross Eastern Parkway, they all ran loose at the park. I’d thought up a bunch of games, but they immediately started playing soccer. And that was just as well. Then there was the piñata:

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Also, the aftermath. Only about three children cried because they didn’t get enough candy. It was mostly the kids who were smart enough not to roll around in the dirt. Note: my kids were not among them and went diving in.

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Meanwhile, I put my friend in charge of pouring wine.

Then, because 4 pounds of candy wasn’t enough, there was a donut cake. Which is just a bunch of donuts piled on top of each other. It’s genius because a) no baking required b) no plates required c) no clean-up required d) children insanely happy.

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We sang happy birthday and devoured a bunch of fried dough.

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Then the kids ran around, climbed some trees, and rode their scooters. Julian got a new scooter for his birthday, but of course I didn’t take a single picture of it.

In fact, I didn’t take any pictures. Because my phone died. But when I came home I had received emails from from probably six or seven moms and babysitters who had all sent me their photos. And that made my heart melt. Also the fact that we have found this amazing community of kids and families. What a blessing and what a joy to see my children run around the park with their good friends, and how lucky for me that the moms are equally amazing.

Julian wished for fish tacos for dinner, so I took the boys across the street to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Then we came home, opened more gifts, and crashed. As in, I’m sitting here with the rest of the boxed wine and a bag of M&Ms.

I’m tired. Birthdays are a lot of work. And this was only 50%! Arthur’s is on Sunday.

That said, when I put the boys to bed tonight, I said to Julian, “I hope you felt special and loved today. You’re so lucky to have such good friends.” And he said, “Thank you, Mama, for everything you did today.”

And that is all I needed to hear.

Coney Island

Today was the only day of spring break that we didn’t have any plans/speech/play dates scheduled, so I decided to take the boys to Coney Island. It was our second trip this year, and I plan to add at least 10 more by September. It is our favorite, favorite place. And it’s so easy to get there!

Once we arrived, even before the rides had opened, we needed hot dogs.

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Next up: rides.

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Then: Wonder Wheel.

I’m seriously so scared of the swinging cars, but the boys insist, and won’t hold my hand, so I just scream and have fun. Then: more rides.

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The boys went on this roller coaster last year. This time around I think Arthur became intimidated half way through the ride, because I saw him putting his head on Julian’s shoulder, and the way he sought comfort like this made my heart melt. Of course he didn’t admit that he was scared at all.

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Then we played on the beach for a good while…

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…had ice cream…

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…and headed home.

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This and that and more of that

It’s been about a month since I last wrote (not counting an update on our trip to Mexico). We’ve just been busy. And sick. And just doing everyday life things. And just feeling kind of meh, all around. But now it’s officially spring, and even though it’s still cold outside, I know the sun is out there, and the days are already longer, and that makes me happy.

Lately, after school and if the sun’s out, we’ve been heading to the playground near the boys’ schools, and one by one people will trickle in, and the kids will play for hours while the parents hang out together. It’s been nice. I love that everyone plays together at Julian’s school, from little siblings to the 4th graders.

We had another parent teacher conference, and the teachers basically looked at me and said, “Julian ist ein Traumkind. Do you have any questions for us?” I was out of there in 5 minutes.

The boys have been growing closer and closer, while of course routinely pushing each other’s buttons. But they are definitely each other’s number one. They play with each other all the time, and we’ve had a couple of instances where Julian had a play date alone at a friend’s house but came to me and confided that he just missed his brother.

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It has also happened that only one of them was invited to a birthday party and refused to go without his brother. I certainly encourage them to foster friendships with other kids, and they do, but they always have this other person as a real safe bet, and I think that is kind of amazing.

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At night, after we’ve read a book and put the boys to bed, Julian will read to Arthur for another 30 minutes. I love hearing his little voice working its way through the pages, and I love that Julian enjoys reading so much.

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Today I took Arthur on an adventure day. We’ve been kind of sluggish for weeks it seems, stuck inside, running errands, doing laundry. So today I took my boy to the Natural History Museum, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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It’s always fun to spend time alone with one of the boys. I don’t do it enough.

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After the museum, we met Papa for lunch at a diner by his work.

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A good kick-off to the weekend!

Mexico, Round Two

Mexico. What can I say?

We came back to Brooklyn and were hit immediately by a snow storm. So this has been us, mostly, for the past week:

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But in our minds, we are all still here:

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We had the best time. We tried a different hotel this time, about two doors down from where we stayed last year. Our hut was one of the ones in the back; you could see the ocean from our porch and hear the waves at night. And we could send the boys outside to play – a luxury we don’t normally have.

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We sat on our porch a bit, sipping wine, and talking when the kids slept at night. Or in between our beach adventures and going out to dinner at night.

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If you were to ask me how many tacos we consumed, I couldn’t tell you. Probably 50? We always started our day with breakfast at the hotel, usually fruit and yogurt and pancakes. And a huge chocolate milk for the boys. They drew so much during this vacation, and Julian has become a very confident if not correct speller, so that has made for some pretty hilarious artwork.

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We also played lots of Uno.

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After breakfast we chose a beach and spent the day bumming around, drinking beer, and playing in the waves. Also, I plowed through this book during vacation; I could not put it down.

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I worked on a really awkward suntan.

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One morning we checked out one of the Cenotes. It was cool! But the boys were intimidated, and it took us an hour to get them to come into the water – which was pretty cold. But they did it, and Julian actually ventured forth into the caves with Papa. We saw fish and turtles and were really hungry for tacos afterwards.

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In our hotel we met a friendly lizard. Just kidding, he was terrified of the boys, of course. But they were excited to meet him. The first time we saw him, Arthur ran inside to grab his toy lizard, his most beloved possession, and the boys followed the lizard around. Julian was convinced that the real lizard would eventually accept the toy lizard as his baby. (Spoiler alert: he did not.)

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We were not ready to come home, but we had to.

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Julian was sad about having missed math at school, and science, and we all know no amount of tacos and ice cream can make up for missing math. Not even if you add them all up. Until next time, Mexico!

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Another Week, Another Protest

…in both small and big ways.

Let’s start with the smaller one. On Wednesday the sun was shining, so we decided to go to a playground near the boys’ schools with two of Julian’s friends in the afternoon. It was a nice, chilly afternoon, and the kids were playing tag. When Julian came over to me, looking unhappy, I thought something had happened to him. I asked him if he was ok. He replied, “I’m ok. But Arthur’s not!” I thought he had fallen, perhaps, and hurt himself. But no. The other Kindergarten boys, Julian’s school friends, were calling Arthur “a baby.”

Arthur was a little mad and a little unfazed. I just told the boys to ignore such a ridiculous comment. I mean, just look at him. Clearly not a baby, right?

Ten minutes later one of the boys called Arthur a baby again, and this time Julian didn’t think twice about it and tackled his friend to the ground. Julian was red-faced and furious. I told him to stop, that’s not the way, but inside I was feeling proud. Julian walked away from everyone and sat on a bench, and tears started running down his face. I asked him if the boys were teasing him, too. He said, “No! They are mean to Arthur.”

Julian wanted to leave, and so we did. Truthfully, Arthur was fine. Julian was the one who was hurt and angry. But as soon as we turned our backs on the playground, my boys started laughing and running, and I knew all was good. And all will be good. At least for them. They have each other.

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Now on to protests in bigger ways.

On Thursday afternoon, thousands of Yemeni business owners closed their delis and bodegas across the city to protest Trump’s immigration ban. The rally was right outside our house, so naturally we had to be there. When I picked the boys up from school, I explained to them about the protest and why we had to go to support our neighbors.

I may have explained it to them in Star Wars terms: we are the resistance, the rebels so to say, and you can all figure out who the Evil Empire is. Julian was way into it and was chanting “We are the resistance!”

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We met so many lovely people.

When everyone started praying, the boys just watched. They were fascinated. The foreign language, the singing, the movements. It sparked so many conversations and questions I was somehow ill prepared for – given that we are non-religious. What is praying? What is God? But I think I managed fine. In the end, Julian said that it was a dumb ban, and if Trump keeps saying stupid things, we should just go live elsewhere.

On Friday, Julian had a puppet show at school, and all the kids were so excited. Not as excited as all the parents, however!

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The kids were adorable. They also received their midterm “report cards.” Julian is “very ambitious, focused and precise and follows the rules well.” He should work on being more self confident. We are very proud.

Today we’re lazing around. Julian is now reading entire books, and it makes me so happy. He’ll whisper quietly to himself, and sometimes he’ll read a particularly funny part to me. He’ll read chapters to Arthur, but only behind closed doors in their room. For some reason he won’t read to me, but I’ll take what I can get. Sitting next to him, each of us reading our own books, is pretty much all I ever wanted.

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Speaking of “reading”… this guy.

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Just some Friday Night Depression

What a week, huh.

It’s really difficult for me to go about life in a “normal” way right now. What does that even mean?

After the march I felt elevated. Powerful. Motivated. But that feeling quickly made room for feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, angry, depressed. This week just crushed me with everything terrible that “that man” did. How is this our reality now? I know these questions are useless; what we need is action. And thankfully, despite my depressed sentiments, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a powerful group of women (Brooklyn moms! Don’t mess with us.) who helped me maintain focus. Calls are being made, events are being planned, unity is happening. Sometimes I truly think that it took this monster to bring us all together.

On the home front, things have also been a little…meh. The husband is sick and presumably slowly dying from what seems to be an actual cold, not a “man cold.” Is it only me who raises a suspicious eyebrow when the husband announces that he’s getting sick? I do. I doubt the severity of that sickness. In this case I admit there was a genuine need for wifely compassion, quiet children, and DayQuil. Some of those I could provide, especially the latter, because it is available in stores. As far as compassion, I made my famous “hot lemon” with … lemon and honey. It cures just about anything, in case you were unsure. As for quiet children, look elsewhere.

My children are never that. What they are, though, is this: loud, challenging, brilliant, very loving, adorable, annoying, constantly hungry, moody, Octonauts-obsessed.

Julian has been a pretty constant source of “no worries.” He excels in school, makes friends, is happy, easy-going, helpful, kind, ever so protective of his little brother. Also: stubborn. I could write pages and pages about him, his plans to run the Q subway line one day and how he will make enough money to be able to afford an apartment in both Upper Manhattan and Coney Island to allow him to rest as much as possible after work, how he is planning his May birthday party now, how deeply he both cares for and annoys his brother and plays with him every waking minute, how is math capabilities are blowing my mind, and how we never receive any correspondence from his school (other than to inform us of school projects, plays and field trips), which I have learned is a good thing.

My baby boy, my Arthur, is worrying me. So much. He is so sweet, and we just couldn’t adore him any more. No one has ever loved me more fiercely than this child. Seriously, if anyone had told me in my 20s about the sort of love that was in store for me, I would have been incredulous. But here it is, here he is, here are all these loving boys of mine.

We’re considering some new routes to help Arthur with his speech. He is so smart (not just according to me) and so talkative and open, but his peers and most adults just can’t understand him. The saddest part of it all is that he is forming no friendships, doesn’t have any kids in his class he talks about, and quite honestly has no friends other than his brother. And it breaks my heart. He is kind to everyone, never excludes anyone, and will walk up to kids and adults alike to talk to them only to be confronted with blank stares because they don’t understand. And he gets it. Arthur understands that he is not understood. So we’re trying to find more help before this struggle undermines any of his loveliness that we adore so much.

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So this mama’s heart is a bit heavy. Heavy with world woes and family woes.

Luckily, there is wine, and my guys. What would I do without them?

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My Birthday – and my Boy Arthur

I had a lovely birthday weekend. 37! No big deal, really, except this year it landed on a Saturday. And for the first time the boys were super excited for the day.

On Friday night, the night before my birthday, Julian hugged me goodnight, patted me on the back and said, “Mama, you are the best woman I know.”

Best birthday present right there.

This kid, I swear, is growing into a man-child before my very eyes. It is mystifying.

The next morning Julian and Arthur woke me up with songs and homemade cards and love notes.

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Then the boys, including my very grown-up boy, got to work and baked me a cake. While I laid in bed and read well-wishes and my book.

After a short while, it was time for this:

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It was one of the best cakes ever, made with so much love and everything delicious that goes into a boxed cake. I mean, I like to bake and all, but this cake is pretty much impossible to top. It had a layer, so naturally the boys called it a “sandwich cake.” Count those candles.

We had a super laid back day with lots of reading, down time, some shopping and brunch in Manhattan. As we sat over our sandwiches and beers, it had started to snow. We walked around amongst the flurries, and it was magical. My people were happy.

At night Jeff and I went out to dinner to this really wonderful place that we’d been to with friends a couple of years ago and that luckily Jeff had rediscovered recently with our Sicilian downstairs neighbor/friend/hair salon owner, Fabio. It just so happened that we walked in, random guys shook hands with Jeff and said, “You’re Fabio’s friend, right?” So we were in for a treat.

Afterwards, I posed on a deserted, snowy street. 37.

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To be honest, while this birthday was in fact one of my favorites, I’ve just been so full of worries. Worries about my baby and our nation. That just about sums it up.

Nation first: I am so excited to head to DC this weekend to show what this nation is all about: equality, empowerment, our future. The majority of this country stands behind us – this country that I’ve chosen as my home.

In other news, we need to make some changes in Arthur’s speech therapy, and I don’t yet know what that means. But he needs more help, or different help, than he is getting. While we understand him pretty well, and his vocabulary and thinking are way above average (I’m told), he has very little interaction with kids his own age who aren’t related to him (his brother). None of the kids in his school understand him, and it breaks my heart. So we’re figuring it out.

Meanwhile, this morning, I was asked to buy some second grade (“gifted & talented”) math books for Julian. (He already owns those.)

It was a day of very mixed emotions.

It’s so, so hard to see your kid struggle. I know in the grand scheme of things we’re dealing with something relatively “light.” I’m not worried about his life (as long as he’s not chewing on a walnut), but I do worry. I worry that he will shut down and will stop being ever so patient when repeating what he is trying to convey however many times it takes. I worry he will have a hard time making friends. I worry that kids will make fun of him (I’ve seen it happen).

I will do my damnedest to make the very best happen for this child.

Last night, after I came home from a lovely dinner date with Arthur’s former speech therapist-now-turned-friend, I kissed my boy’s sleepy hot cheeks and thought to myself, “Huh. He hasn’t interrupted my sleep in weeks. I kind of miss him.”

And that night he appeared next to my bed, the first time in weeks, and whispered something about monsters. I pulled him in, and he settled into the old comfortable nook of my arm, and for a moment everything in the world was as it should be.

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On Octonauts and other equally important stuff

I was just sitting here, over my “you’ve made it!” beer, listening to the boys in the tub – in character, of course. Can we talk about Octonauts for just one second? Oh. Man. It all started very innocently what feels like 35 years ago, when my friend said, “Oh! There is this show the boys might like! It’s called Octonauts.” Anyway, I was just sitting here and thinking to myself that oh, I have a headache, and my children are so loud. Except they are not my children; they are the Octonauts.

Fast forward to now. We’ve successfully and with most of our sanity intact made it through the following obsessions: trains, Star Wars, Superman and Wonder Woman, and now this. Somehow the boys have taken it to a new level.

When Arthur and I pick Julian up from school, right after he’s presented me with the latest math problems of the day, Julian will bend down, look at Arthur and say, “I’m Captain Barnacles. Are you Kwazii?”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good for you. Try to keep it that way.

All day long, this is what I hear. Everything about the latest underwater problems. On the upside of things, when Arthur’s speech therapist brought an underwater sticker game to play with, Arthur proceeded to explain to her about sea kraits, hydrothermal vents, and coconut crabs. She was so intrigued that this woman of, let’s say, 25 perhaps? went home one day and watched an episode of Octonauts. Why anyone who has a free will would make such a decision, I don’t know.

The day this obsession dies will be a joyous one.

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In other news, we don’t have lice yet. Although it seems all lice in Brooklyn are targeting the boys’ schools.

Also, why is December the busiest month of the year? We’re just hopping from thing to thing on the weekends. That said, I am oddly excited for the “Winter Celebration” at Julian’s school tomorrow, just because he’s been practicing the songs every day, and it’s adorable.

Despite being so busy, the Christmas spirit has hit us hard. We got a tree!

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Julian has been sleeping like this:

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The boys have been singing Christmas songs to no end, and we’ve watched a couple of Christmas shows. Rudolph, anyone?

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Nikolaus came and brought some small toys and too much chocolate. Arthur was the snack child for school that day, and his ridiculous mother made these:

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Tonight, I’m tired. Tired of hearing Christmas songs (it’s December 6…I need help), tired of Octonauts, tired of all the noise my children make, tired of not feeling 100%. But hey, tomorrow is a new day, and a new chance to learn something interesting about the ocean world and sea creatures have some fun.

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Life Stuff

Today didn’t start great.

But let me begin somewhere else. A few months ago, back when we had Arthur’s lovely speech therapist Katie, she remarked on how amazing it is that we all eat breakfast together every single day. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. It’s just what we did, and I think it’s important that we eat together.

Fast forward to our everyday lives with two kids in school. Everything is different. There is a lot more hustling. We have exactly one hour between getting up (or coming home from the gym, in my case) and heading out the door. So I’ve found myself feeding the kids at the small kitchen table while hurriedly sipping my coffee and emptying the dishwasher.

But I’ve missed sitting with my family at the table over yogurt and granola. So this week I’ve made an effort to make it happen, but OH.MY.GOD. It literally meant not brushing my teeth (sorry, gross), not finishing my coffee (same as before), not taking a shower (luxury), and constant bickering. So we’ll have to see if 10 minutes of joint yogurt-granola-bliss is worth the 10 minutes we’re missing for everything else.

Oh. Also, Arthur. Did I mention Arthur? The child that screams bloody murder as soon as Papa lovingly suggests it’s time to put on socks. And shoes. Shoes. Incredibly offensive shoes. Every damn morning it’s the same spiel, and no one really knows why. It just annoys everyone to bits and pieces.

By the time everyone is situated on the bike and the morning playlist is running (in today’s case: “Best of Prince”), Arthur is feeling “super super Entschuldidum” That means “super super apology” for all you non-German, non-Arthur speaking folk. And then we kiss and make up and sing to 1999 like we don’t have a care in the world.

But I still had a frown on my face and guilt, anger, frustration on my mind.

After drop off and during my solo bike ride home, I was still moody. So I went shopping for Christmas decorations to make our home more festive. Then I came home and saw that Jeff had cleaned up the kitchen, made all the beds, got the laundry ready, and straightened up all around. It was just the right gesture at just the right moment.

Then I did our 50 pounds of weekly laundry. (Why do we wear so many clothes? Use so many towels? Sheets? I don’t know.)

I was still kind of grumpy. Then I saw that the Christmas lights were being put up on the trees lining our street. I stopped by the flower shop for our annual poinsettia and a smile from our neighbor-friend Estela. I started decorating our home. I listened to Christmas tunes.

Then I folded all of our laundry. And I know that most people hate that task, and I kind of do too, but today I was reminded of how much I adore my family and all of their inside-out socks. Just kidding. Boys, please learn how to not have every single piece of clothing be inside out. Thanks. 

Then I picked up the boys, was greeted with hugs and stories (Arthur) and the latest math problems and Octonauts drawings (Julian), and we headed home. We bought donuts and muffins. Our friends came over for tea and coffee and treats. The boys were annoyingly loud. They kept banging stuff, jumping on furniture, dragging things into places they don’t belong, ignoring the voice of sanity (me).

Once our friends had left, I put the boys in the bath, and when I realized they were still hurting my ears with all their noise, I closed the door and poured myself a big glass of wine.

After bath I confronted my children with the fact that tonight there would be no Octonauts on TV (more on this another time). I made them a cozy nook on the big window sill with blankets and pillows, and they watched the flickering lights on the trees. Then Jeff came home, the boys declared there was “no more electricity” and turned off all the lights and on their headlamps. Jeff and I sat in the kitchen over bourbon and wine, by candlelight, while our non-Octonauts-watching children roamed around.

No TV was probably the best decision I made today.

This was long, and sort of random, probably. But tonight I feel warm and fuzzy towards my very loud family and not so sad and loser-like as I did this morning. Thanks to friends, love, wine, and the good ol’ Christmas spirit.

Also, letters to Santa.

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I hope Arthur still writes the same ‘R’ when he is 25.

About all that “free time”…

It’s been about a month since both boys have been in school. Of course, since Arthur only goes three days a week and October has been jam-packed with holidays and also some sick days for him, he’s only actually been to school for 10 days. Of those days, three days have been spent inside his school and the rest “forest school style” outside while they were waiting for one last permit.

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Anyway, the season of school has just begun, and I think we are still all finding our groove. Scratch that. The boys are fine. They run off in the mornings, Julian often hand in hand with a friend, and Arthur hurries off to greet his teachers. Usually I get a big goodbye hug, but on occasion Julian has just wandered off without saying goodbye, while chatting to a friend. Today Arthur did the same.

After school they are tired and happy. Julian tells me about his day in detail. Math is his favorite. He drew a spider for a Halloween picture. These are the friends he played with at the park. They sang a song about fall for other teachers and kids in higher grades (a performance!). He is seriously so chatty and provides so much information that I was asked to send updates to his friends’ parents because most of the kids say nothing.

Arthur, too, is following suit. Yellow and blue makes green! They learned a new song! They went to the playground, and he played police with his friend Leo and also a little bit by himself. For Halloween one of the boys will be Batman, and there will be two Elsas. He missed me after nap.

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This is how Arthur would greet me the first couple of weeks when I picked him up at the park. He would just fly into my arms! It was pretty much the greatest feeling ever.

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And while all this is going on, what do I do? All summer long everyone asked me what I would do with all my free time! I joked that I would do my nails and stare into nothingness. The truth is, it’s been a little bit different than I had envisioned. There just isn’t that much time!

The first day both kids were in school I went all out. I went for a leisurely walk and took myself out for a lovely lunch.

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Ever since then, I’ve been running errands, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning. It’s been extremely glamorous. To all the mamas who work and accomplish all the domestic things, I have no clue how you do it. I have three days to myself. Well, half days, really. I’m back from school drop off at 10am and have to leave again at 2:15pm. And those hours just fly by.

So while I haven’t gone to any museums or had my hair done or met Jeff for lunch, these hours are still special and somehow different. I do things at my own pace. Some days I go to the gym. Sometimes I walk slower or shop longer or eat my lunch on our stoop. I play the music that I like on the bike. I shower in peace. When I went to get my flu shot, I had to wait in the pharmacy for 10 minutes. Just sitting on a chair. It was so obvious to me what I wasn’t doing at that moment. I wasn’t telling my children “Don’t touch! Stop running! Don’t touch! Put that back! Did you just push him?!” I just sat there. I silence and with my thoughts. That was nice. And I get to run all of our errands without my sidekicks, which pretty much is a win/win situation for everyone involved.

So I guess if I could go back and answer the question about what I would be doing with “all my free time” again, I would say: The same stuff I would normally do. But also taking a deep breath every now and then. I enjoy hearing my own thoughts again after 5+ years of being drowned out by my two lovely, loud boys.

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